Hohenzollern Castle

europe, Germany, History, Travel

The first castle I ever visited was not one I ever expected to see. It was never on a list, but it was a pure treasure!

Circa 2010 when my trip was interrupted by a volcano, I found myself with an extra week in Germany.

My amazing host friends, military based near Stuttgart, decided it was a great time to help me explore more of Germany.

The first choice was to get me into a castle and southern Germany has some of the best examples of castle architecture in the world! The magnificent Hohenzollern is no exception. While many people head to Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich, few recognize the choices and variety of castles that exist in and outside of Bavaria.

Hohenzollern is just south of Stuttgart in Bisingen, and it’s a fabulous example of what Prussian architecture created. Parts of the castle date back to 1267 with some structures in place as far back as 1061. Often referred to as the  “Crown of all Castles in Swabia” all was lost in 1454. While other owners built up the fortress at times, the castle was never fully restored and was practically abandoned by the 19th century.

It was then that Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia decided to rebuild the castle. Started in 1850 the castle was built to reflect the heritage and culture of the region and the Prussian monarch. For reference, Neuschwanstein Castle was built around the same time by the Bavarian monarchy.

Hohenzollern shocked me on numerous levels, the first was the way it reflected the fantastical ideals we encompass about castles in Europe. Hohenzollern has majestic spires, endless walls, and magical paintings and frescoes.

The vast and rich green forests that also surround the area are amazing. As the landscape moves into being the dark forest you see where imagination could run wild. It was these forests and these castles and beautiful buildings that so deeply rooted Germans and Victorians and Americans to a love of fairytales and medieval revival. These forests birthed Grimm’s fairytales and much more to a Euro-American psyche.

If you are looking for an escape from the tourist trail, stunning views, and some prime architecture of the medieval reimagining of the 19th century, this place is for you!

VISITOR DETAILS:

HOURS: Monday to Sunday: 10:00am to 5:30 pm (4:30pm November to March) (closed most holidays)

WEBSITE: https://www.burg-hohenzollern.com

ADMISSION: $10-15 USD

ENGLISH TOURS:

 16 March – 31 October  Saturday* + Sunday*   11:30 + 14:00 + 16:30 
 16 March – 31 October  Monday* – Friday*  14:00 
 01 November -15 March    Saturday* + Sunday*  11:30 + 14:00

For Castles, Head to Scotland

History, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom
Edinburgh Castle, 2010 trip

While England is well known as a hub for centuries of castles. And while it holds some of the finest examples of castle and manor architectural wonders, it lacks the density of castles that most visitors dream of, at least in modern visibility.

Since the pesky Normans invaded (1066, look it up) castle sprouted all over Britain and some 4,000 were in England at one point. However, time, and age, and people like Oliver Cromwell destroyed many of the finest castles Britain had. Today England has around 1,500 castles that are registered landmarks. Scotland has over 2,000 castle examples.

Scotland (30,090 sq mi), by comparison in land mass and distance to travel, is significantly smaller than England (50,301 sq mi). Scotland also has the benefit of some of the best castle examples being within a remarkably short drive or train from Edinburgh, Scotland. This reason alone is one of the many reasons why I have continued to return to Scotland for a taste of magic, history, and escapism. 

Scotland is a major location to film historical and fictional movies due to its plethora of castles. Movies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the Harry Potter Franchise, those which don’t tell particularly Scottish stories, are prime examples of the beauty of the region providing a great backdrop. 

Thus, dear fellow travelers, Scotland is a prime spot for pulling on your wellies and tromping through some highlands to see some great Castles! Here are some of my absolute favorites. 

Edinburgh Castle – You can’t visit Scotland and not stop at one of its main historical attractions. Not only is it the heart of the city, the entirety of it is surrounding by the stunning features of the city’s old town and views of the new town. The museums at the castle complex offer an unparalleled starting point into Scotland’s history. 

Edinburgh Castle, 2015

Stirling Castle – Stirling is a fantastic neighboring city of Edinburgh, and only around an hour away by train or car. The city also boasts its own castle, built over the end of the 15th and into the 17th century, and a shining example of early modern period tastes and designs. I love the layout of this castle as it has dedicated itself to being an example of 16th century life in Scotland. 


Doune Castle, 2010

Doune Castle – Just outside of Stirling is the city of Doune, and one of the better loved castles for movie locations. Doune Castle was originally known as the “Holy Grail Castle” where one could take a photo with coconuts and run around pretending they were horse hooves. In the last five years or so it has become best known for some lusty shots from Outlander. For history geeks, this castle also boasts some great restoration and it is set among some stellar hiking trails and views. 

Playing Monty Python, 2010

Eilean Donan – As the most photographed castle in Scotland this one has to make the list. However, to many peoples’ surprise, this castle was not built long long ago in a land far away. The castle isn’t even 100 years old and was built by some scenery and history loving architects and owners who chose to celebrate the locations heritage. The spot of Eilean Donan was a hot spot for groups until the 1700s when most of the 13th century castle was restored. 

Eilean Donan, 2015

DirletonCastle – Just a short trek from Edinburgh this greatcastle offers a lot of exploration and fun on one small location. If you’re upfor a game of hide and seek, this castle is the perfect one to get lost in andrevel in some history at. 

Tantallon Castle – If you love ocean backdrops then thesea swept cliffs by Tantallonmake a visit worthwhile. Important historically, this castle is one of thefinest examples of medieval design and castle living, providing not onlyamazing views, but rich educational opportunities. 

There are so many more to explore in Scotland, and more I have had theluxury of seeing. Where are your favorites? What do you want to see?

Happy Travels!

Edinburgh- A city for everyone

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An ancient city, once the home of kings and queens, Edinburgh, Scotland is one of the best cities in Europe for travelers. A cultural hub that is guaranteed to delight, Edinburgh is the capital of a vibrant country steeped in history and traditions and revered by the world. Whether you want to wake up to bagpipes echoing off of medieval skyscrapers, unique culinary experiences, or to see some of the most elegant architecture in the world, Edinburgh is a city not to be missed.edinburgh 1

 

Need to know-

The main part of Edinburgh is split into two parts; there is the Old Town and the New Town, as a result of expansion in the 18th century. The Old Town is where the castle and oldest buildings of the city are, along with steep closes and early skyscrapers, all built on a dormant volcano. This makes for intensely beautiful landscapes but can be quite the workout for tourists. Plan on walking uphill a lot, and wearing comfortable shoes to manage the cobblestones.

Why you should go-

Though as a traveler the beauty of a place can be seen, but sometimes a local can put it best. “Born and bred in Edinburgh, I never realized how much one city could mean to me, I took it for granted at first, but what I left my home I missed everything. I felt drawn back to its poetic landscapes and architecture, in the summer the world unites in the city center and you truly feel blessed to be a part of it.” Sean Rae is a native of the city and still enjoys the typical sites of the Royal Mile and eating “heart destroying deep fried foods” such as fish and chips, fried mars bars, and scotch eggs.

Maybe the best part of Edinburgh is that it can be enjoyed on almost any budget. Accommodations are very affordable, especially in the off-season of October to November and January through May, and many sights around the city have free or inexpensive entrance fees. Just make sure to bring your rain gear and a warm jacket, as temperatures can get as low as 52°F in July with a high of only about 66°F, on average.

Festivals year round mean that there is plenty to do while in town and a few that may surprise you. Add those to special gallery and museum exhibits and you will not run out of activities. Key festivals are in August with the military Tattoo, Fringe Festival, International Festival, Book Festival and Mela Festival.

Sights

For the History Buff

Edinburgh Castle– £16 adults, £12.80 adults 60+, £9.60 children 5-15, FREE children under 5- Castlehill Edinburgh EH1 2NG- A must see for most visitors to the city, this castle encapsulates much of Scottish history, and the history of Auld Reekie (Edinburgh). The castle is made of several smaller museums, such as armories to collections on world war two and life on the home front. St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh dating back to the 12th century. Make sure you take the time to see the royal chambers in the Royal Palace and finish by visiting the Scottish crowned jewels. Get to the castle early to avoid crowds, but make sure to stay around for the 1pm cannon that goes off everyday but Sunday.

edinburgh 2

 

National Museum of Scotland– Free, donations welcome- Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH1 1JF-A little something for everyone, kids and adults can be awed by ancient statues and priceless Scottish relics along with beautiful pieces of art and culture from all over the world. Understand why many Scots left Scotland in the search for opportunity elsewhere, and learn about the way life has changed for people in the last 100 years. Don’t miss the observation deck on the roof for great panoramic views of the city.

For the Literary Buff

Edinburgh Writer’s Museum-Free, donations welcome- Lady Stair’s House, Lady Stair’s Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh-In a home built in 1622, this beautiful and cozy museum offers Scottish Literary buffs the chance to be swooned by the Scottish Bards’ words over loud speaker, and learn about the great Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott.

For the Art Fanatic

Scottish National GalleryFree- The Mound, Edinburgh- This gallery offers a wide variety of Scottish made classics along with artists from around the world. Make sure to see John Duncan’s St. Bride and many other uniquely Scottish works of art.

For Ghoulish Geeks

Surgeon’s Museum- £6 adult, £3 students-The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Nicolson St, Edinburgh- Reopening in Summer 2015, this museum is in homage to Edinburgh being the home to the oldest surgeon’s college in the world and to this day is a prestigious location to receive an education. The museum boasts a lavish collection of body parts in formaldehyde from World War I, along with wax body parts and collections of old operating instruments.

Vaults Tour The New City of Edinburgh was built in the 18th century as a more elite neighborhood, in order to get all the expensive and heavy belongings from the hilled Old Town to New Town they built bridges to make the move easier. When building the bridges they decided to take advantage of all the space underneath and create storage and business vaults opening in 1788. These vaults evolved into a slum of a neighborhood with a red light district and where the extremely poor could afford to live. Crimes were rampant in the vaults and in the mid 18th century the vaults were sealed off, the last in 1875. Only to be rediscovered in the 1980s. It may be hard to single out which tour to take as many exciting people will stand with signs on the Royal Mile advertising their ghoulish adventure. Choose from ghost tours, historical reenactor tours, or plain-Jane history tours. Mercat Tours- Mercat House 28 Blair St Edinburgh- offers a little bit of everything.

Fantastic Views

Scots Monument£4 a person- E. Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh- A gorgeous Victorian-Gothic spire that is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and his contribution to not only literature but the causes of Scotland. Climb 287 steps to the top for beautiful images carved into the tower and to see the landscape of the whole city.

Calton HillFree- Regent Road, Edinburgh- A popular hangout for locals and visitors alike this natural green space is ideal for some time away from the city and a chance to explore some distinct architectural features along with views of the local landscape and Arthur’s Seat.

Arthur’s Seat Free- Technically in Holyrood Park, Arthur’s seat is the highest point in the Lothian’s and the prime location for time with nature and to get a hike in on a famous landmark.